All You Fear is Here: HalloWeekends at Cedar Point
Written by James Koehl
When the weather starts to turn cooler and the sun sets earlier over Sandusky Bay, the beautiful lake north of Ohio turns from Lake Erie to Lake "Eerie." A mysterious fog covers parts of Cedar Point. Buildings closed throughout the park's regular season start to emit strange evil sounds. Lightning flashes from the second floor windows of the old Administration Building, from the long abandoned apartment of George Boeckling, the man who turned Cedar Point into a major tourist attraction ( and who died in 1931...or did he?). The screams heard throughout the park don't all come from the roller coasters Cedar Point is famous for.Tweet
This is HalloWeekends.
Cedar Point's celebration of all things scary premiered in 1997 as a three weekend event with two haunted areas, the Cedar Point Cemetery and the Eerie Manor (both now replaced with other attractions) and the Cedar Point Spooky Express (the park's Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad going past added "spooky" areas). Every year since has seen new haunted areas added, old ones replaced, an increased emphasis on family-friendly activities, and the event extended to last for seven weekends, from the second weekend in September to the weekend before Halloween. HalloWeekends now encompasses the entire park, with haunted areas being found from the front gate to the farthest reaches of Frontier Town and decorations everywhere, including all the Cedar Point Resort hotels. The park is open Friday evenings from 6 pm to midnight, Saturdays from 11am to midnight, and Sundays noon to 8 p.m.(except on Sunday, Oct.13 when the park is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.). The amount of decorative materials needed to turn Cedar Point into one of the nation's largest and most popular Halloween attractions is remarkable: 800 pumpkins and 400 other gourds totaling over 23,000 lbs, 96 bushel baskets, 1735 bales of straw, 4,500 square feet of wax-encased bodies in one haunted house alone, and nearly 80,000 cornstalks are just a small part of the huge volume and variety of materials needed to decorate the massive Cedar Point grounds.
Cedar Point has made a special effort to provide plenty of activities for families with young children who might not be ready for the major scary parts of HalloWeekends. The Planet Snoopy children's area is now "Planet Spooky", and Camp Snoopy is- you guessed it- "Camp Spooky"; the Blue Streak Plaza has been transformed into "Howl-O-Palooza", featuring the non-scary "Magic House on Boo Hill", the Hay Bale Maze for children and their families to find their way through, giant inflatables of silly monsters, and the Pumpkin Patch Stage where a variety of friendly monsters come and play with guests of all ages; family-friendly Halloween shows such as "Monster Under My Bed" at the Planet Snoopy Stage, "Charlie Brown's Funtime Frolics" at the Camp Spooky Stage, and "Halloween Hullabaloo!" at the Ghoul Time (Good Time) Theatre provide entertainment throughout the day. A trick-or-treat trail with the dinosaurs on Adventure Island takes children past over fifty life-size dinosaurs (but unfortunately has an up-charge of $5). The biggest family entertainment addition to Cedar Point for HalloWeekends is the Monster Midway Invasion Celebration, a parade winding from the front of the park, down the midway, under Corkscrew and through the Gemini Midway. This parade features over one hundred performers, dancers, Halloween characters, floats, bands and the winners of the children's costume contests held daily. All of these activities, along with the seasonal decorations found throughout the rest of the park, including nearly 1000 potted mums, make HalloWeekends at Cedar Point a great place for families with young children to spend a cool Autumn weekend.
Two areas at Cedar Point attract visitors day and night with their unusual decorations and themes - the Dead Rock Cemetery and the Cedar Point Ride Graveyard. The Dead Rock Cemetery, located under the turn-around at Corkscrew, features tombstones and costumed skeletons of famous deceased rock stars -or in the case of Elvis Presley, "probably" deceased. Visitors often spend time looking for their favorite performers, commenting, "I didn't know that he was dead!" and searching for new "residents" of the cemetery since last year. The Cedar Point Ride Graveyard is found on the main midway under the Skyride near the front of the park, and has tombstones for twenty-four rides that once thrilled riders at Cedar Point but- alas- are no more to be found at America's Rockin' Roller Coast. Each tombstone is designed specifically for the attraction it commemorates: the San Francisco Earthquake (1966-1984) tombstone has a large crack down the middle of it; the Pirate Ride (1966-1996) has a stone pirate statue on top of the tombstone; the tombstone for the much loved Upside Down Fun House (1966-1981) is just that - upside down! Last year, for the premier of the new Shoot the Rapids ride, the "grave" for the old Shoot the Rapids was shown dug up and empty- the ride had risen from its grave! One that gets the most comments is for the Frontier Life, a second skyride that once carried guests from the main midway to Frontier Town. One of its gondolas is lying directly under the Sky Ride, appearing to have fallen from the cable and crashed to earth, leaving several skeletons of its "riders" trapped in its wreckage and making the living riders above wondering if perhaps they are next!
Let's face it - it's the haunted houses and scary areas that bring the crowds to parks on cold Autumn weekend nights, and Cedar Point has ten haunted attractions, four indoor and six outdoor. These walk-through attractions have a variety of themes and take advantage of both the historic structures of Cedar Point and the long, winding areas under the roller coasters that for most of the year are inaccessible to guests. Four attractions are indoors, and are open Friday through Sunday; the other six outdoor "Scare Zones" are open on Fridays and Saturday evenings (and on Sunday, October 13th) with varying hours of operation. All are included in admission to Cedar Point. The lines can be quite long for the indoor haunts, so Cedar Point offers "Fright Lane", similar to "Fast Lane" that permits one-time-only front-of-line admission to all four indoor haunted houses (for an additional $35/person).
Photo courtesy Cedar Point
The four indoor haunts are "The Eerie Estate", "Eternity Infirmary", "Eden Musee", and new for 2013, "Zombie High School". Eerie Estate is the mansion of G.A. Boeckling, who made Cedar Point into a nationally famous resort, but is now inhabited by the undead servants of Mr. Boeckling. It is loaded with thousands of dollars of antiques, and is the location of Boeckling's Banquet, a fine-dining event held in the formal dining room. The Eternity Infirmary is a hospital where "patients" can check in- but can't check out...alive! The Eden Musee, located inside the massive infield of Mean Streak, is described like this by the official press release; "The wax museum's longtime owner has left his children to run the family business their way, with disastrous results. Eden Musee Wax Museum and Chamber of Horrors is a chilling throwback to the historic attraction housed at Cedar Point from 1918 to 1966."
Photo courtesy Cedar Point
Zombie High School is the newest haunted house at Cedar Point. Set in Cleaver High School, home of the Cleaver Beavers, guests returning to high school "have much more to fear than flunking a math test. At Cedar Point's Zombie High School, flesh-eating hellions and glassy-eyed teachers lurk in the halls and locker rooms, waiting for unsuspecting visitors. Every corner of the school, from the cafeteria to the chemistry lab, has been overrun by the undead." I especially enjoyed the details in this haunted house, from the undead lunch ladies serving brains in the cafeteria to the hallways barricaded with now-bloodied school desks to the prom scene where zombies are dancing with dead partners hanging from hangman's nooses. Over 3000 props were assembled to create the undead-infested hallways, classrooms and gymnasium, including an especially disturbing scene in the locker room involving 140 jock straps. Even the team name has been changed by the deceased students to the "Cleaver Zombeavers"!
The six outdoor haunts weave throughout Cedar Point, utilizing both public walkways and areas normally off-limits to park guests. At night, Frontier Trail becomes the science fiction steampunk-themed "Maniacal Mechanical Screamworks"; Camp Snoopy (or Camp Spooky) is taken over by the crazed clowns and sideshow freaks of "CarnEvil"; the normally waterfilled channel of Thunder Canyon is drained, lined with over 50,000 cornstalks and becomes the twisting, evil cornfield haunted by the "Cornstalkers". What is usually a welcoming picnic shelter near Raptor becomes a nightmarish demented version of a Renaissance Festival gone very wrong- a "Fear Faire". The last two haunted areas, "Blood on the Bayou" (where the dark, murky waters of the Cedar Point waterways are too dangerous to explore- or survive) and "Cut Throat Cove" (where the "motley crews of sunken ships" lost along the shores of Cedar Point over the centuries are looking for new dead crewmates), are found under the Iron Dragon/Mantis coasters and Maverick respectively. One hundred fifty foggers and disorienting lighting add to the eerie atmosphere of these weird, winding and ultimately entertaining scare zones.
Photo courtesy Cedar Point
Who populates these scare zones? Over four hundred "Screamsters" are transformed by twenty-five makeup artists in four hours into zombie football players, undead pirates, melting wax figures and walking cornstalks. Detailed makeup, over 450 prosthetics and elaborate costuming turn everyday people from all over this part of Ohio into the demented clowns of CarnEvil, rotting wenches of Fear Faire, and the wandering ghosts that populate the Cedar Point Ride Graveyard every evening. Thousands of props and elaborate scenery constructed specifically for each haunted area complete the transformation.
How does HalloWeekends compare to other Halloween attractions? I must be honest and admit that I have not visited any other theme park Halloween event. All I can base it on is how I see visitors react, and they do react. My teenage daughter always screams at the right time, and we usually have to push her through the mazes. The Screamsters all seem to enjoy their evil, bloody characters, and seeing how their performances developed from the first day of HalloWeekends to their performances just two days later was impressive. They know when to jump out, how to get the best reaction, and especially how to chose the best person in the group to haunt, hunt, and "play with".
Cedar Point does not have the deep vault of horror material to chose from that Universal does, and I must commend them for coming up with so many original haunted areas, each different in theme but consistent in their quality. If I had a complaint, it would be that some of the indoor haunts are so dark, especially the Eerie Estate, that it is visually hard to see what we are supposed to be scared of. I tripped over a chair, and my son ran into a wall. That was not scary, just annoying. This complaint is one that I heard from other guests, and I hope that Cedar Point addresses this easily-resolved problem soon.
HalloWeekends is a great Halloween event, ranked fifth best in the nation by Amusement Today's Golden Ticket Awards. Add that to Cedar Point's sixteenth consecutive win as the Best Amusement Park in the World and its unique and beautiful location on Lake Erie and spending a weekend at Cedar Point this Halloween season is a trip to enjoy for all ages.
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